From the archives: Star Wars

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License to Slum, pt. 4

Sunday, 31 August 2008 — 11:42pm | Film, Literature, Star Wars, Television, Tie-ins and fanfic

This is the fourth part of “License to Slum: The Novel of the Movie of the Game”, a pentapartite polemic about media tie-in fiction in which I investigate whether my prejudice against them is just a prejudice. I recommend that you start at the beginning. For the purposes of this episode, I also recommend an earlier post of mine on the subject of fan fiction, “The hack-and-slash fiction property market” (12 December 2007).

In this instalment, I inquire into the the extent to which the sharing of a mythopoeic universe constrains the freedom of the individual author, viz. whether there is a place for genuine innovation between the oversaturation of “canons” and the anarchic multiverse of fanfic.

Continued »

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There is no new Star Wars movie

Friday, 15 August 2008 — 10:14pm | Animation, Film, Star Wars

Before you read any further, observe these choice photographs of costumed Disneyland employees being arrested. They will set the tone.

I’ve noticed a bit of confusion in the air owing to the fact that cinemas are booking something called Star Wars: The Clone Wars this weekend. Lots of cinemas, actually—3,452 at last count, placing it on the order of a big summer release (and take special note of how I’m not going to call it a “film”). Well, the throngs of uninformed consumers out there are the primary audience at the multiplexes anyway, so you might as well cast a wide net.

The fact is, anyone who pays the least amount of attention to Star Wars (and if you aren’t, why would you watch this release?) is, or should be, fully aware that The Clone Wars is nothing more or less than a television pilot for a spin-off series that follows the footsteps of a long line of spin-off series, though the subject matter probably allows for more lightsabre duels and space battles than Droids or Ewoks did back in the ’80s. This might appeal to the individuals who will swallow anything as soon as you stick a Star Wars label on it—refer to your local bookshop’s “Science Fiction & Fantasy Series” shelf for details—but I’m not fooled for a second. I, for one, am quite aware that the seedy underworld of Star Wars spin-offs has historically produced nothing of value whatsoever, with the notable exceptions of Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic, Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2D Clone Wars vignettes, and a couple of choice LEGO sets.

I’m not even speaking to the quality of The Clone Wars, since I haven’t seen it: word has it that it’s dreadful, for all that other people’s opinions matter around here. The fact remains that there is no new Star Wars movie opening this weekend. The film series ended three years ago. Some would go so far as to argue that it ended twenty-five years ago, though they would be wrong.

When the dust settles and the inevitably anemic box office tally comes in, let it be a warning to anybody who thinks projecting television-quality material on underbooked screens confers some sort of legitimacy on the product. It doesn’t. Even Disney found this out years ago in the dying throes of the Eisner regime, when they tried to sneak the likes of Return to Never Land and The Jungle Book 2 under our noses. It confuses the market and dilutes the brand.

This is especially criminal where the Star Wars brand is concerned, because since the inception of the franchise, there has been an invisible line between the core product—the six Star Wars films—and the spin-off money farms of the comics, books, and video games. The existence of The Clone Wars is not news. What is news is the gumption of the folks at Warner Bros. (yes, Warner Bros., not 20th Century Fox) to fire the first salvo across the ceasefire line. It makes a mockery of the possibilities of cinema to remain above and beyond what television and direct-to-video have to offer. Then again, that’s standard practise now, isn’t it?

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Shut up, and leave me alone!

Tuesday, 14 June 2005 — 12:58am | Film, Star Wars

The above is not a bitter declaration to the people who have been bugging me about updating this Hole-in-the-Wall, Wyoming of mine by every pedestrian means possible. I was really hoping for a request by telegram, but it seems that nobody has caught on to how I tend to reward my kind of scum – fearless and inventive. I’m not saying that you should barge in on my desert palace with a captive Wookiee in one hand and a thermal detonator in the other every time my blog traipses off and hibernates in a block of carbonite without prior warning, but telegrams are cool.

The above title is, apropos, a reference to Charlie Brown’s summer camp bunkmate in an amusing Peanuts story arc published in July 1971 – and if you caught it, dear sir or madam, I salute thee.

So here we proceed to the substance of my return, and unlike the disgraced coverboy of Punch-Out for the Nintendo Entertainment System, there’s no Kevin McBride to stop me. The only thing that may stop me, as I have discovered to both my detriment and yours, is a promise.

You’d think I would have picked up on this by now after almost two years of aperiodically pushing mountains of ideas onto the metaphorical stack and never bothering to pop, but I should never, ever again promise a future post – not to myself, for sure, and especially not to you guys up there in the loft who pay a nickel in time every night to see this two-bit digital cabaret.

Vonnegut’s last novel, to which I often refer in spite of not having opened it in eight years, is (to oversimplify) a book about the author’s inability to write the book. At this very moment, I am operating in that spirit. Yes, I know I promised a modem-breaking photo journal of the eleven-and-a-half hours I spent in my Jedi robes lining up for Revenge of the Sith at South Edmonton Common. To my credit (but acknowledging Watto’s reminder that Republic credits are no good out here), I do have those photographs at the ready. I’m reluctant to post them here at the full resolution, but I’m just amateur enough a photographer that the vast majority of the pictures do not show much of discernible value once shrunk to manageable dimensions. Clearly, I need something more efficacious, perhaps along the lines of the sockless house-elves or typewriter monkeys that run the Jones Collection.

I’ll work around the limitations somehow – maybe just post a few choice shots instead of covering the entire day-long chronology as originally projected – but for the time being, take my word for it that the costumes were awesome.

And that’s the kind of thing that has kept me from writing here lately, but it is not alone in that regard. I came across a number of observations as I started planning a framework for a whole series of dissertations on Episode III, which certainly instigates as many potential controversies as it resolves on the surface.

The first obstacle I recognized was that every time the credits roll (and here I should note that I’ve only seen ROTS a couple of times), I feel that I am not yet ready to tackle the subjects I want to tackle until I see it just one more time; not because I don’t know what I want to say, but because I seek reinforcement, and I’d prefer to test my theories vigorously before unleashing them upon the unsuspecting public.

The second was known to me: with little exception, I loathe discussing Star Wars with laypeople. This is part of why the idea was to do a number of standalone posts that responded and answered to nobody, because the overwhelming majority of people who broach the subject don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. In fact, I think this of most cinema in general, which is why I am more hesitant to discuss film in polite company than politics or religion by several orders of magnitude. Most people don’t know how to watch it. However, some folks are swell and receptive enough to pick it up, and that I don’t mind at all, as we all have to start somewhere. But those landlocked in their own binary reduction of “criticism” into either liking something or destroying it, when it is properly the understanding and inference of a hypothetical literary system at work – those I won’t deal with. And that includes, as a proper subset, a lot of otherwise smart people.

The third obstacle is an extension of the second, and not an intuitive one: with little exception, I loathe discussing Star Wars with other self-proclaimed Star Wars fans. A good chunk of them fall into the category of people who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, but think they do. Some of them are too blindly polluted by the licensing project’s inflicted travesties; others have yet to move beyond the elementary misconception of critical thinking I mentioned earlier.

There do exist others still with some measure of intelligence who have not retreated behind the curtain out of frustration, and I respect them. Even if they disagree with me on certain key judgments and interpretations about George Lucas’ six-episode cycle (which happens, as I have a higher opinion of Episodes I and II than most), at least they do it in a reasonable fashion where conclusions follow from premises, and the premises aren’t apocryphal junk. Over the years I’ve managed to pick out a few people from the forum scene who are not categorically idiotic, and it turns out the ideal solution was to go off and discuss the films in and out in a private community by invitation only. Ironically, though, analytical prowess under a common umbrella of knowledge and passion breeds a swift compromise of mutual comprehension, and discussions don’t go for very long before most of the bases are covered and everyone who is late on the game (recently, that would be me) is left nodding in agreement with little to add.

I love writing about Star Wars. I hate writing about Star Wars. And that’s why I haven’t been writing about it, though this may just be an elaborate excuse to avoid building a precarious house of cards that begs to collapse under its own weight before it has even come into existence.

There have been other delaying factors shuffling in and out of play, and while I may discuss them in a subsequent post, I make no promises.

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The circle is now complete

Thursday, 19 May 2005 — 8:51am | Film, Star Wars

I’ve been waiting for the moment to say that for some time now. And what a glorious moment it is.

I do believe this is all quite unmanageable. There’s so much to say, it’s hard to know where to begin. But the absence of a clear beginning is what the saga has congealed to become – a complete circle, but one akin to a snake eating its own tail. Episode III is a movie that feeds into both the past and the future.

I don’t remember the last time I saw a movie in the two-hour ballpark that was so dense with content. There is no shortage of things to discuss and debate in the context of both the film itself as a self-contained chapter, and its implications for the saga on the whole. I need to go back and see it again before I can produce any genuinely useful commentary beyond gut reactions of ecstacy – and tragedy. There are scarring images that I would not place far behind the climaxes of Empire and Jedi on the heartbreak scale, and a bittersweet impression left by the final shot – one of the best exeunts I’ve seen in any movie, and one that does not operate on its own terms alone. But I need to return to the cinema and let everything sink in, like every nuance of Palpatine’s sinister elucidations, or the way scenes like a certain pivotal one by a shattered panoramic window resonate with the Classic Trilogy in the truest sense of the word as it pertains to plotwise amplification and feedback.

I’ll pause there before this post spirals out of control and spins away from the metaphorical trench to parts unknown like a certain starfighter we know.

There will shortly be a photo journal of sorts on what opening night was like at South Edmonton Common. Those of you on dial-up connections have been warned.

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At last we will have revenge

Monday, 16 May 2005 — 10:37pm | Film, Star Wars

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